How Much Money Can You Get From Commercial Truck Insurance After Crash?

After you have been involved in a crash with an 18 wheeler or other big truck, you need to know who is going to pay your medical bills and how much money is available to pay your other damages.

Dallas-Fort Worth truck lawyer Bill Berenson explains what you need to know about commercial truck insurance and truck accident cases. 

Recent Case Shows Why You Need a Good Injury Lawyer After You Are in a Collision

Our law firm recently settled a lawsuit arising out of this multi-vehicle crash but it wasn’t easy. There were six vehicles and eight injured people and the small truck company did not even have an insurance policy. Even so, the injury lawyers involved figured out a way to obtain the amount required for commercial truck insurance under federal law and get our clients paid after attending a mediation. But crashes like this with 18-wheelers, box trucks, pickup trucks, and SUVs can cause devastating injuries and huge medical bills. Finding out who to contact, how to proceed, and how much money is available can be difficult — often intentionally. Our firm knows what to do after a commercial truck collision after almost 40 years of fighting for injured Texans. This post will explain how commercial truck insurance works and how it can get you repaid for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages you have sustained after a truck accident.

But Won’t The Insurance Company Just Pay Me a Fair Amount On My Own?

You cannot and should not assume that the truck company is going to help you, especially if you are not represented by a personal injury lawyer. Just the opposite. The truck company is in business to transport freight and make money, not to pay you from its own funds or have its insurance rates raised or policy cancelled.

So the truck company and its highly trained insurance representatives will fight you tooth and nail. They will try to shift some or all of the blame to you, other vehicles, or other factors like the weather or road condition. They will minimize or ignore your injuries, lost wages, and other damages. They will demand proof and make ridiculous demands that you won’t be able to get unless you do this for a living, which of course you don’t.

They will pull every trick in the book. Their standard operating procedure is the 3 D’s: “deny, delay, and defend (in court).”

The more time that goes by, the more dug in the truck company and its insurance representatives get and the more evidence is lost. Time is not your friend here. The more time that passes, the less interested they will be in settling out of court. There are important legal deadlines. Wait too long and you won’t be able to bring a lawsuit, or the one you file will be seriously weakened.

That assumes that you know how to file a suit, understand the rules of civil procedure and evidence, and how to take your case to a jury.

Unless you are trained in truck collision law and investigation, you will have no idea where to begin. Of course, the insurance company knows this. It has virtually unlimited financial resources  and adjusters, experts, and attorneys to fight the scores of truck collisions that truck drivers cause.

As soon as the crash happens, the driver is required to report it to his dispatcher, who sends out a crash response team immediately. This team includes lawyers and investigators. You may have been rushed to the hospital by ambulance and never return to the scene to get the required proof of what happened for use in a courtroom.

They know this. They do this day after day, year after year. To them, it’s their job to make a good case become bad. To you, it’s the first time you’ve ever gone through this. You need professional help.

What the Personal Injury Lawyer Will Do To Get You a Higher Settlement or Jury Verdict

To counter this, a personal injury lawyer will do many legal jobs to maximize your financial recovery. He will

  • Obtain the police report to learn information about the owner of the truck and trailer, driver, weight, cargo, and insurance companies.
  • Go to the scene, get photographs, and attempt to find the other vehicles.
  • Obtain a restraining order to make sure the 18-wheeler is not hidden or altered.
  • Get its black box downloaded to learn what speeds and brakes were used.
  • Work with his accident reconstruction expert, get statements from witnesses, talk to the police officers, and do everything he can obtain critical evidence and nail down liability.
  • Notify the insurance company that he is representing you. Until this point, the insurance company adjuster has marked your file as “not represented by counsel” and you can be sure, he is prepared to low-ball you with any offer, if any is ever made. When the adjuster receives a letter telling him you were smart enough to hire an experienced injury lawyer who has also sent him a spoilation letter so that evidence must be preserved, you can be sure that the value of your case just increased substantially.
  • Find out whether claims have or will be presented by other injured drivers and passengers and who their lawyers are so he can work with them to maximize your recovery.
  • Work with you to make sure you are getting the proper medical care and that your bills are being protected or paid.
  • File suit and develop your case up for trial.
  • Do whatever he can to win your case.

Amounts of Commercial Truck Insurance

The total available depends on the type of vehicle, whether it goes across state lines, the size and assets of the company, the type of cargo carried, whether passengers are involved, and other considerations.While personal car policies usually have coverage by person and by occurrence, e.g. $30,000 per person and $60,000 for all injured people, a commercial vehicle policy will usually have one amount for all people hurt.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs the insurance amounts and rules and regulations for interstate transportation. These are the minimum amounts of liability insurance it requires:
Tractor-trailers: $750,000 if the truck weighs more than 10,001 pounds and $300,000 if less
Oil tankers: $1 million
Tankers carrying hazardous materials: $5 million
Buses: $5 million if it can seat 16 or more people and $1,500,000 if less. If the bus travels inside of Texas, $500,000 if its passenger capacity if 15-26 and over 26 people, $5 million.
Farm vehicles: $500,000 if gross weight is 48,000 pounds or more
Commercial vehicles inside Texas state lines: The Texas Department of Transportation generally requires a limit of $500,000 but there are exceptions.

Larger trucking companies usually carry higher limits than the minimum required and have multiple policies with different companies. Finding out the total coverage is critical.

Other truck companies are self-insured up to a high amount which means they have to pay large deductibles, often $250,000 or $500,000 from the company’s own bank account.

Still other insurance policies are referred to as “eroding,” which means that the often substantial legal expenses and other costs can be deducted from the total available.

As you can see, obtaining this information is crucial, especially in high damage, multiple vehicle cases.

Of course, these amounts are not automatically paid out every time there is a truck collision, but knowing how much is potentially available is a step in the right direction, especially when you are being jerked around by an adjuster who says there isn’t enough money to pay your damages.

These Limits Must Be Raised

The FMCSA asked Congress last year to raise the liability insurance required but the bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright, a former lawyer representing injured people, failed. The original number of $750,000 was set 38 years ago and has never increased. Due to inflation, the original number of $750,000 is now worth over $2 million.

When an 18-wheeler kills and/or injures more than one person, there is often not enough money to pay all of the claimants for their damages in full.

If the injured person secures a verdict in excess of the available policy and meets certain legal requirements, he can attempt to force the company to sell assets to pay the amount owed but this can be a difficult process.

The reason that the liability insurance limit is critical and that proceeding quickly is that many small companies have no sizeable or collectable assets that can be levied. Others file for bankruptcy or go out of business. That is why almost every injured person pursues his claim against the insurance company.

Get Help With Your Truck Wreck Case

Berenson Injury Law only represents people who have been injured in commercial truck, car, motorcycle, and other vehicle collisions. You are probably wondering how much money your case is worth, how you can get your medical bills paid, and whether you should even hire a personal injury lawyer. We can answer your questions free of charge in a no obligation meeting in our office or on the phone.

We work hard for our clients. The man who was injured in the collision pictured above kindly wrote this review after his case settled: “Bill and his team worked hard to get me the best outcome in a difficult case. They always kept me updated on what was going on. I highly recommend using his firm!” Other reviews can be found here.

Please call us toll-free at 1-885-801-8585  or click here so we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

For more on this topic:

Truck accident settlement calculator: how much is my case worth?

Who pays your damages after 18-wheeler crash?

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